Coming Home

Ever since I left my hometown 7 years ago to attend college, I've been struggling with the proper decorum for visiting when I'm back in town. That is, how do I prioritize who I visit and what's the best way to avoid seeing people I deem not important enough? As the years have gone by, this struggle has only intensified.

I was amazed, during my first few visits back home, how many people I didn't even think knew I had left were pressed to see me. I'd get home to a list that seemed a mile long of people who had called my mom and asked when I'd be home and then requested a visit. At first I tried to comply, but eventually I got fed up with spending hours at people's houses who a)weren't checking on me during the year and b)quite frankly bored me. Plus it was seriously cutting into how much time I had to spend with my friends and the other people I did want to see. Not to mention a lot of these people were friends of my mom, not friends of mine. I just stopped feeling beholden to them, especially once my mom gave me her blessing on it.

And now, when I come home, I pretty much just want to spend time resting or hanging out with my mom. There are definitely friends here I want to see but we're all getting older and so many of them have busy lives that they can't just stop because I'm in town. Funny -- that doesn't seem to be holding true for some of these other people, but whatevs.

I'm thinking about this stuff because I just got an email from a longtime mentor and friend. She and I have been emailing each other regularly since I was a junior in high school. I'm very close with her and her family and see them as family in a lot of ways. Lately, she's been asking me a lot about coming down to spend the night with them when I'm in town. I've had legitimate reasons in the past for having to turn down the invitation and I imagine that I'll continue to have legitimate reasons, but her request this time was less asking and more "I know I keep asking and I keep asking because you haven't said yes..."

I could've made time to acquiesce and it would seem that I would want to given my relationship with them. Her husband is like a father figure for me and her sons are like little brothers. I owe them so much and they exposed me to so many things for which I'm forever grateful. But thinking about spending a night just doesn't excite me the way it used to.

I've grown a lot in the last 7 years, which is how long I've been away from home and thus away from them. I've matured, been exposed to new things and situations and people and I have a larger world view. Though I love them, when I'm with them I can't help but feel like I'm being closed in. The things they worry about, think about, joke about and even judge feel so small and miniscule to me. This sounds like such an exponentially ridiculous thing to use as why I don't want to fulfill a simple request, but it's still my truth. On the times I have visited, I couldn't get back to my mama's house fast enough.

Having the background that I do, I'm frequently around less, shall we say "cultured," individuals. This means I've had to dance around the line of acceptable and unacceptable. How much ignorance do you put up with before you hip people to game. Like when my uncles refer to gay men as "sissies" -- not out of malice, but out of ignorance. Do I remind myself that just because a white person tells me their grandmother calls black folks "nigger" out of ignorance, that doesn't change the offense or do I tell myself my uncles just don't know any better and let it go. When I'm with them -- this family -- and they say something left of center, I feel like my silence okays it, but I know that my speaking up won't do much to change what they think. Most times it's not worth it to me to cause an issue when nothing will change, but it still plays in my mind that I know better, but didn't say anything.

Maybe my sensitivity to this has more to do with feeling like I'm outgrowing them and not being ok with that, than any actual ignorance. I don't know. But I do know that I've got to figure this out. I can't keep avoiding the issue.

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